ZHMB Junior Group - R. Mohrmann

The current focus of our research is on elucidating the molecular mechanism of exocytosis. The fusion of cargo-filled vesicles with the plasma membrane constitutes a fundamental cellular trafficking process that is especially important for most forms of intercellular communication. Our workgroup is particularly interested in the composition and function of the central protein complexes that mediate membrane merger and subsequent formation of a fusion pore. It is well established today that the ternary SNARE complex constitutes the central component of the molecular fusion apparatus. SNARE complexes forming between the membranes are believed to act like molecular machines that could generate mechanical force to approximate both lipid bilayers and to initiate their fusion. However, the central steps that lead to the reorganization of the membranes and enable cargo efflux are poorly understood. In our recent work we have studied the stoichiometry of the fusion complex and also investigated the functional role of several accessory factors. To further our understanding of the fusion mechanism we plan to continue our structure/function analysis employing molecular biological techniques, imaging methods, and high-resolution electrophysiological assays.